New data suggest 'jumping genes' play a significant role in gene regulatory networks

Feb 14, 2009

Research performed in the Center for Biomolecular Science & Engineering (CBSE) at the University of California, Santa Cruz, suggests that mobile repetitive elements--also known as transposons or "jumping genes"--do indeed affect the evolution of gene regulatory networks.

David Haussler, CBSE director and distinguished professor of biomolecular engineering at UCSC's Jack Baskin School of Engineering, said CBSE research teams are finding evidence that the early theories of Nobel Prize winner Barbara McClintock, later modeled by Roy Britten and Eric Davidson, are correct. Haussler will discuss these findings in a presentation on "Transposon-induced rewriting of vertebrate gene regulation" at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago.

"Comparison of the human genome with the genomes of other species reveals that at least five percent of the human genome has been under negative selection during most of mammalian evolution," Haussler said. "We believe that this five percent is, therefore, likely to be functional."

Coding exons and structural RNA genes stand out because of their distinctive pattern of base substitutions and "indels"--the insertions and deletions of nucleic acid bases that can change the message in a genome. According to Haussler, however, most of the DNA under negative selection in vertebrate genomes does not appear to be transcribed and shares no sequence similarity with the genomes of invertebrates.

"Our research suggests that many of these elements serve as distal enhancers for developmental genes," Haussler said. "A significant amount of the gene regulatory material appears to have indeed been put into place by ancient transposons."

Source: University of California - Santa Cruz

Explore further: Diabetes drug found in freshwater is a potential cause of intersex fish

Related Stories

Darwin's finches highlight the unity of all life

Apr 03, 2015

When Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in October 1835, he and his ship-mates on board HMS Beagle collected specimens of birds, including finches and mockingbirds, from various islands of the archipelago.

Detailing heterochromatin formation at the onset of life

Apr 01, 2015

Antoine Peters and his group at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) have elucidated the mechanisms controlling the packaging of chromatin in the early embryo. They have identified ...

Recommended for you

York's anti-malarial plant given Chinese approval

Apr 24, 2015

A new hybrid plant used in anti-malarial drug production, developed by scientists at the University of York's Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), is now registered as a new variety in China.

The appeal of being anti-GMO

Apr 24, 2015

A team of Belgian philosophers and plant biotechnologists have turned to cognitive science to explain why opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has become so widespread, despite positive contributions ...

Micro fingers for arranging single cells

Apr 24, 2015

Functional analysis of a cell, which is the fundamental unit of life, is important for gaining new insights into medical and pharmaceutical fields. For efficiently studying cell functions, it is essential ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.